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Syrian forces raid cities in possible manhunt

Residents say forces are looking for a Hama prosecutor who in videos said he had quit because of a Syrian government campaign of killing. The government says he was forced to issue the statements.

September 05, 2011|By Roula Hajjar, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Beirut — Government tanks, state security agents and plainclothes loyalist militiamen known as shabiha raided cities in northern and central Syria on Sunday, in what residents said was a manhunt for one of the highest-ranking officials yet to defect to the opposition. Activists reported 14 people killed Sunday by government forces seeking to crush the nearly six-month uprising against President Bashar Assad.

Most of the day's government attacks on civilians occurred in the cities of Hama, Homs and Idlib and the suburbs of Damascus, the Syrian capital, according to the Local Coordination Committees of Syria opposition coalition.

Residents in and around the northern city of Idlib and the central city of Hama said government forces had launched a massive manhunt for Adnan Mohammad Bakkour, the chief government prosecutor in Hama. Bakkour appeared in videos last week in which he said he had resigned because of a massive government campaign of killing and torture in Hama. The government responded that Bakkour had been kidnapped and forced to issue the statement.

The offensive in one town "has been one of the most barbaric I have ever heard of; tanks are on the streets trying to coerce residents to divulge information about Bakkour," said Moustafa, a farmer in Idlib, a city on the border with Turkey. He spoke on condition he not be identified further, for fear of retaliation.

Amateur video posted on the Internet on Sunday showed tanks positioned in the narrow neighborhood streets of Idlib.

In the Bab Amr district of Homs, the lawyer's hometown, security forces stormed in, accompanied by plainclothes security forces.

"Shooting has been going on all day … indiscriminate shooting aimed at homes," said Majed, a legal activist in Homs.

Hajjar is a special correspondent.

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